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Temperament linked to onset of cancer and early death in female rats

Female rats that are apprehensive of new experiences as infants maintain that temperament and die earlier from mammary and pituitary tumors than do their more adventuresome sisters, according to new research by a team based at the University of Chicago.

The apprehensive rats were more likely to have irregular reproductive cycles than adventuresome rats, and that disruption could account for hormonal differences linked to the development of cancer earlier, the scholars found. There was no difference in the length of time between onset of cancer and death in the two set of rats, however, the scholars found.

Because the findings have identified a difference in temperament that is associated with the onset of cancer, the findings may have implications for research on the development of cancer in humans, said Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago, and a member of the team that reports its findings in the paper "Infant Temperament Predicts Life Span in Female Rats that Develop Spontaneous Tumors" in the current issue of Hormones and Behavior.

Current human studies on the relationship between cancer and personality primarily focus on survival once a tumor has been identified.

"Human studies may need to consider more basic behavior traits than those already considered," McClintock explained. By understanding the development of basic traits, researchers will be better equipped to link the connections between personality and cancer development, the team suggests.

The links between behavior traits and cancer in rats are striking, the scholars found.

"This is the first evidence that infant temperament among rats predicts the time at which these tumors appear and the age at which the females will die," said lead author Sonia Cavigelli, a former University researcher who is now Assistant Professor in Biobehavioral Health Pennsylvania State U
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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
19-Oct-2006


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